IT is said that a week is a long time in politics. It can also be an eternity in racing, as connections of Grimthorpe Chase hero Chidswell will readily testify.
Seven days previously owners David and Nicky Robinson, together with trainer Nicky Richards and his team, were mourning Baywing after their faithful staying steeplechaser paid the ultimate price at the first fence in Newcastle’s Eider Chase.
Fast forward a week and Chidswell, the outsider of seven in Doncaster’s feature race on the concluding day of the 2018-19 National Hunt season on Town Moor, was providing some unexpected recompense.
The emotions were self-evident as Richards poured water over the victor in the winner’s enclosure before patting Chidswell and telling the horse: “Good lad, well done.”
The loss of Baywing, a former winner of Wetherby’s Towton Novices’ Chase and also the 2018 Eider, clearly hurt and still does.
Richards, whose late father Gordon lost the brilliant One Man less than a month after the great grey won the 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, said before the Grimthorpe that it had been “a tough week”.
But he also knew drying ground would play to the strengths of Chidswell, who carried bottom weight of just 10st 4lb and was ridden with restraint by Craig Nichol in the three-mile-two-furlong feature.
Favourite Rocky’s Treasure and Dingo Dollar went toe-to-toe through the early exchanges, with the former the first to drop away under David Bass.
That left Dingo Dollar in charge, but Chidswell – and stablemate Looking Well – were on his heels and the companions settled down to battle it out with a couple to jump.
Chidswell took the early advantage and was in control when Looking Well took a tired fall at the last under Aidan Coleman, who limped away from the fence less than a fortnight before a potentially career-defining ride on favourite Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
It left the 18-1 winner to come home nine lengths clear of Dingo Dollar, with Brian Boranha third for Malton trainer Peter Niven.
“He didn’t know what price he was,” said Richards, who explained how the horse had been schooled over some showjumping poles on the morning of the race before making the journey from Cumbria to South Yorkshire.
“He’s a bit of a boy, I promise you – he’s a bit of a comedian to ride at home. He’s not an old man’s ride, like me.
“He needs to be fresh, so we won’t be rushing him back quickly – but he’s going to make a fine, staying chaser for the next two or three years.”
In turn, Chidswell’s owners paid tribute to the support they had received during one of the most bittersweet weeks of their racing lives.
“That was fantastic after last week. It couldn’t have been better,” said David Robinson as his wife nodded her head in acknowledgement.
“That was horrible last week. But onwards and upwards – don’t look back, always look forward, and look for the next one.
“The northern racing community is a family, and we’ve had loads of texts and emails. If you look on Nicky Richards’s Facebook page there are 130 comments offering condolences.
“I was a bit nervous, with what happened last week.
“Going to the first fence he was very, very fresh and had his head up, but once he settled I thought, ‘just get round’.
“Then you could tell he was going very, very well. There was a little bit of a doubt whether he’d stay, but we thought he would do, and he has done. Craig (Nichol) said he stayed very, very well.”
As for Nichol, he was deputising for Ryan Day who is still recovering from injuries that he sustained in Baywing’s fall.
A former champion conditional, he has struggled for opportunities, but was clearly pleased to win a major Saturday race that often produces future Grand National contenders.
Earlier Sue Smith’s very consistent chaser Cracking Find, running in the colours of Ann Ellis, finished a close third to Movie Legend and Theo in the two-mile handicap chase.
It continued the fine form of Cracking Find, who followed up his victory in Wetherby’s Castleford Chase on December 27 by winning at Doncaster.